April brainstorm

2012

Spring (if it ever arrives) is a time to join nature in a sense of renewal. So here are some fresh ideas I hope you'll find useful:

1: Sometimes "old school" is best
In this time when we are obsessed with how new technology can help us do anything, it was amusing to read what the producers of "The King's Speech" did when they wanted to get the script to Geoffrey Rush, who they hoped would sign up for the film and thereby increase its chances of getting made.

Did they Tweet? Did they "friend" him on Facebook? Did they pin his picture on Pinterest? No... They got somebody who lived near him to put the script through his letterbox along with a note apologizing for the intrusion (very British, that). He read it and agreed to take the part.

ACTION: What are you trying to achieve at the moment? Is there an "old school" approach you're overlooking?

2: Now wash your hands
The journal Current Directions in Psychological Science reveals that when people think of something they've done wrong, they feel less guilty after they've used an antiseptic hand wipe.

The journal added, ""Cleansing works for other mental discomforts, such as post- decision doubt. To resolve this doubt, people who opted for one of two similar jams felt better about their choice after making the decision, a well-known tendency called choice justification. But if people were given a hand wipe to use, they no longer justified their choice: They had wiped off their doubt.

Using soap showed similar results after a bad luck streak in gambling: After washing, participants started to bet higher stakes, suggesting they had 'washed away' their bad luck." (Look for hand wipe dispensers to show up attached to poker tables and slot machines any day now.)

ACTION: If you find yourself sabotaging your efforts by second-guessing your decisions (for instance, about which project to work on), try washing your hands after you've made your decision. It may sound strange, but more and more research is showing that we are influenced by images and symbolism, so why not put them to work? (PS: thanks to Steven at TheEmotion Machine.com for pointing me toward this item).

3: If at first you don't succeed...give up?
Writing at the CBSnews.com site, Sean Silverthorne says, "Entrepreneurs need something almost the opposite of perseverance: they need to know when to give up. Not give up as in go home. Give up as in stop what they are doing and head in a new direction. Business management scholars call this the pivot, and it is increasingly becoming part of the histories written by many a fledgling business."

He cites several examples of start-ups that found flaws in their product or service model or encountered shifts in the economy that changed the level of demand. The nimble ones quickly changed course and survived.

Of course the difficulty is knowing when the stick with it - often people are tempted to quit just before they have a breakthrough (the "it's darkest before the dawn" scenario). Other times, however, they continue past the point of no return (the "go down with the sinking ship" scenario).

ACTION: Do you have a project or situation that isn't working? Have you stuck with it for too long? Four useful questions to ask:

"Why isn't it working?" This is not about blame, but about figuring out the exact points that influence the outcome and could be changed.

"What is in my control that I can change to make it more likely to work?" Too often we focus on factors that are outside of our control, which is a waste of time and energy.

"What indicators do I have that it might work? For instance, even if not enough people are buying or using it, have your sales been increasing?

"What new direction could I try?" Ideally this would use some of the resources and the feedback you have from the current version.

4: When a limitation can be a plus.
I see that one of my favorite cartoonists, Jules Feiffer will publish his first original graphic novel, Kill My Mother, next year. Publisher's weekly writes, "The book will trace the lives of two families over a span of 20 years that starts during World War II. The book features a cast of memorable female characters and a Norton spokesperson said the dialogue - long hailed as a highlight of Feiffer's writing - is "unparalleled" for its wit and humor."

In an interview, Feiffer said, "when I started out in the comic book business, I didn't plan on producing social and political commentary" (which he's done brilliantly for many years). He wanted to create action/adventure comic strips like Will Eisner and Roy Crane. "But I couldn't draw like them. Since I had no qualifications and couldn't imitate them, I tried to do my own thing."

What a great example of how a limitation can turn into a plus! Since then his realistic drawing has improved and he's done 30 pages of the new book and is turning out about three pages a week. By the way, he's 83.

ACTION: Is there something you want to do but lack the skill? What could you do with the skill you DO have? And I don't want to hear anything about "I'm too old" or "It's too late for me to start that." Not unless you're 84. Actually, make that 97 - Herman Wouk, who is 96, has just sold a new novel.

5: Really think outside the box!
The metaphor "think outside the box" has become a cliché, but not long ago some researchers decided to test it literally. They built a five foot by five foot box and administered a ten question word creativity association test to participants. Some sat in the box, some sat outside the box (but in the same room) and some sat in a box-less room.

The ones sitting outside the box scored higher than the ones inside the box or in another room. Another test, this one presenting people with a puzzle to solve while walking along a rectangular path, showed that people allowed to depart from the path had higher scores than those restricted to the path or sitting. As with item two above, it seems that when we act out a metaphor it has an effect on our state of mind.

ACTION: An interesting way to explore this effect might be go to a spot different from your work area and imagine yourself sitting in a box the walls of which are made of any frustrations or blocks you are experiencing. Then walk out of the box. Notice whether you feel lighter, and get to work.

6. And a quote to consider: "To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly." - Henri Bergson

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About The Author

Jurgen Wolff
Jurgen Wolff

Jurgen Wolff is a writer, teacher, and hypnotherapist. His goal is to help individuals liberate their own creativity through specific techniques that can be used at work as well as at home. His recent books include "Focus: the power of targeted thinking," a W. H. Smith best-seller, and "Your Writing Coach".